The NHL is a pretty exciting place nowadays. It's now a faster and more skillful brand of hockey as the number of fights has gone way down, to the point where the role of the enforcer has been almost completely phased out. Teams simply can't afford to have a pylon out there on the fourth line anymore. Referees very rarely receive any praise, but we have to give credit where it's due. They have done a great job at limiting senseless scrums and acts of intimidation as they will oftentimes pick the most active player in the tussle and put him in the penalty box. It's certainly a refreshing style of hockey and one where only the skilled can thrive
Having said all that...do you ever notice how certain NHL players seemingly forget how to play hockey overnight? The drop in play is sometimes very sudden and it seems random but there are usually reasons for the player's decline. Injuries oftentimes play a factor as well as father time. As we will see there are also examples of players who don't train all that hard and rely heavily on their natural ability. As these players age, the decline is painful and evident because they're not putting in the work that's needed to compete at the highest level. Hey, we're not going to pretend that we have all the answers here. Some players just seem jinxed and are destined for failure.
Many teams think that they can "make something" out of these players or hope that they can rekindle some old magic but it is usually not the case. For example, how many times is Scott Gomez going to get "1 last chance" before teams finally take a hint? Spoiler alert: "Gomer" will not crack this list as everyone knows that his run in the league is just about done. We're going to focus more on people that are flying under the old radar.
Let's get this list started! Here are the top 15 NHL players whose careers seem doomed.
15 Cody Hodgson
14 Cam Ward
13 Jarret Stoll
12 Ryan Kesler
11 Jarred Tinordi
10 Jordan Staal
Pittsburgh did Staal "a solid" when they traded him to Carolina. Had he remained a Penguin, he would have been stuck in a third line role for the rest of his career because he would always be behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the depth chart. It was also an opportunity to go play with his brother Eric. Despite his limited ice time, he remarkably managed to get 50 points in 62 games in the 2011-2012 season. The Hurricanes figured that with more ice time, and a more prominent role, those numbers would only increase. Sadly for Staal and the Canes, his totals did just the opposite.
9 Alexander Semin
Here we have Montreal's 2nd disaster of an acquisition. To be fair, this one was very low risk and it's not like they lost a player to acquire Semin's crappy services. He's notoriously been billed a player that simply does not care. No, for real, his former teammate Matt Bradley actually used those words: "he just doesn't care."
Bradley is likely correct in his assertion, but there has to be more to it than that. Even in Washington when he "didn't care," he still managed to put up 40 goals in 2010. When Semin, Ovechkin, and Backstrom hopped the boards, their speed was down right scary. Fast forward to 2015-16 and Semin looks like one of the slowest players on the ice. Sure, he doesn't care, but he never cared and it is now clear that his NHL days are likely done.
8 Dany Heatley
7 Michael Ryder
6 Mike Richards
5 Ilya Bryzgalov
4 Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian was involved in a trade this summer that landed him in Montreal in exchange for Brandon Prust. Habs fans were hopeful because the team has been undersized for years, and Kassian was a big strong winger that could fill a hole on the third line. Before the season even started, Kassian's car (he was in the passenger seat) was involved in an accident. It was discouraging but didn't seem like that big a deal on the surface as NHL players have done far worse and been forgiven. But Kassian was promptly placed in rehab and was "thrown under the bus" by Marc Bergevin and Michel Therrien for his irresponsible behaviour. He was also placed on waivers 20 minutes after being dismissed from rehab.
3 Phil Kessel
It's now officially time to rag on everyone's favorite whipping boy, Mr. Phil "coach killer" Kessel. Some people are for sure sitting here saying: "this doesn't make sense, Kessel is good for 30 goals a year, what's this lowly writer's problem?". This is true, while Kessel has a pathetic work ethic and resembles the Pillsbury Doughboy, he does have tremendous talent. This issue is not what Kessel brings to a team, it's what he takes away from it.
His former coach (Ron Wilson) billed him as "uncoachable." Wilson isn't exactly going to win any popularity contests either, but the facts seem to support his claim. Kessel is currently on his fourth coach (3 of them getting fired) in a calendar year and has somehow made the Penguins worse. There's clearly friction with him and his teammates as he's constantly getting the "stink-eye" from Evgeni Malkin when something goes wrong, and was even caught mouthing off with Sidney Crosby during a play. Let's not forget, Boston simply gave up on Kessel earlier in his career for the exact same reasons. Is his 30 goals really worth the headache? Any team he joins certainly seems doomed.
2 David Clarkson
1 Jeff Skinner
While it's been a joy to poke fun at the likes of Phil Kessel, Ilya Bryzgalov, and David Clarkson, Skinner's case is a very sad one. At only 23 years old, he has already suffered 3 concussions. In layman's terms, a concussion is not like a broken bone in a sense that it gets stronger once it heels. Once someone is concussed, it gets easier and easier for it to happen again as it's a cumulative effect on the brain. It's always a good story when a player comes back from a concussion and doesn't lose a step, Patrice Bergeron comes to mind. But there's also examples like Marc Savard and Chris Pronger where they are still struggling with everyday life.
There's no doubt, Skinner can still play in the league but how much more of a pounding can his head take? His numbers have declined and analysts like Pierre McGuire maintain that he looks timid out there. There's some question marks going forward, and we do hope his career is not doomed although the evidence supports the contrary.
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